LOS ANGELES — Wal-Mart Stores staged a celebration Tuesday to kick off construction on the new, controversial Neighborhood Market in the Chinatown area here.
The event was scheduled to include a performance by a youth group of a traditional lion dance, which is supposed to ward off bad luck — in a building that has been vacant for two decades — and to invite good luck and prosperity for the local community.
In a separate development involving Wal-Mart in the area, the company said it was ending a business relationship with a public relations firm after an employee of the firm posed as a reporter at an event staged by critics of the chain.
The PR firm is Mercury Public Affairs, a Washington D.C.-based company with offices here, which had reportedly been hired to lobby Los Angeles officials to approve construction of the Neighborhood Market. According to published reports, an associate of the firm posed as a student journalist at a news conference held by Warehouse Workers United, which has accused Wal-Mart of failing to ensure that contractors at one of the company's Southern California warehouses were paying employees minimum wages and providing regular breaks.
In a statement Steven V. Restivo, senior director of community affairs for Wal-Mart, said, "Our culture of integrity is a constant at Wal-Mart, and from Day One, we addressed these actions as unacceptable, misleading and wrong. We reached a mutual decision with Mercury to end our business relationship. We take this matter seriously and have taken the appropriate steps to ensure this type of activity is not repeated."